Burials WW1 Hipswell 1915-1916
During the research by A1 Community Works staff and volunteers it was noted that a number of deaths were caused by cebro meningitis. Meningitis was killer epidemic that across the world during and after WW1. The epidemic spread across the military camps,the navy and hospitals. There was a realisation that due to the close proximity that soldiers were called upon to live and sleep together the disease moved quickly among the fit and the ill. The research at the time lead the medical profession to revise the space allocated between beds in huts.
Below are 2 links
1916 a Report on Cerebro-Spinal Fever and its epidemia:
1916 a Report on Cerebro-Spinal Fever and its epidemia: prevalence among the civil population in England and Wales, with special reference to outbreaks in certain districts during the first six months of for the year 1915 was produced by Dr. R. J. Reece . He observed:- "The outbreak of war in the summer of 1914 brought about a redistribution of the, population. Young men of military age, joining the Colours, became grouped in camps, and troops were concentrated in various parts of England for military reasons. On the advent of winter many of the troops were billeted on the civil population. Overcrowding in barracks, in 'hutments', and in billets took place, pending such time as it became possible to make suitable arrangements for the accommodation of large bodies of troops. Cerebro-spinal fever has, been termed by competent observers abroad as a disease of children and recruits. The result of the altered conditions was keenly watched, and by the end of the year 1914 it became manifest that cerebro-spinal fever in epidemic form had to be reckoned with."
Brian Bouchard. © December, 2016
The disease is sporadic and seasonal (most cases occur in the first quarter of the year) and often occurs in jails, barracks and overcrowded urban centres. It is more likely to happen after a bout of flu or other event that lowers the body's resistance to infection (e.g. injury, illness, vaccination, fatigue, and stress). The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs.
Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation's proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore, the condition is classified as a medical emergency. In a paper published in the British Medical Journal in 1915 by the eminent Sir William Osler he says that although meningitis is not very common it has a higher death rate than any acute infection except plague and cholera and has the capacity to kill within 24 hours and describes a case where a young man died with 12 hours. As with some other diseases people can carry the organisms without suffering the disease.
In the UK Meningitis only became a modifiable disease in England and Wales during September 1912 so accurate figures before then are not available. The following table gives details of civil cases of meningococcal meningitis, the type caused by bacteria, in England and Wales:
In the first half of 1915 there were 2045 civil cases (468 in the London area) so about 9 times the peacetime rate [Source: Reece Report to the Local Government Board 1916].
During the first world war the soldiers often were forced to sleep in overcrowded huts and barracks with poor heating and ventilation. The overcrowding meant that 2 or 3 times as many men would sleep in a hut as during peace time with the space between beds reduced from 36 inches to 6 inches and some men sleeping on the floor. By the end of the war it was realised that the incidence of meningitis rapidly rose in such conditions and spacing out the beds reduced the risk. During cold conditions the men would often crowd round the only heater in a hut and men sleeping in beds close to the heater were at higher risk.
In the UK the military approach during WW1 to cases of suspected meningitis was to immediately isolate the patient. After full diagnosis he would be sent to an isolation hospital and his bedding and that of his neighbours burned with blankets and clothing sent for disinfection. All the men sharing the room would be isolated and kept under observation and nasal swabs taken. Only after they came back negative would the hut be pronounced infection free. The isolated men would be paraded and drilled separately to others in their unit, they could not communicate directly with the cook house, their feeding utensils scalded with boiling water and each man used his own cups and plates. All waste mater was burned and separate latrines used and checks for vermin, lice etc carried out.